They have been around since 1837, when the Roxbury Coach Co. first minted ''metal tickets" for its horse-drawn service from Eliot Square to downtown.
But yesterday, with the debut of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's automated fare collection on the Blue Line, the thick brass coin that millions of Bostonians and others used to get around began its journey to the trash heap of history.
T officials said yesterday that, after a last minting in the summer of 2006, the token will be phased out in 2007.
Still, as the new fare collection system is rolled out, the token will remain the most convenient way to get through the old turnstiles on the Green, Orange, and Red Line subways and trolleys.
''The token is still going to be the ultimate coin of the realm for the T over the next two years, but after that it's relegated to the 'Antiques Roadshow,' " said Daniel A. Grabauskas, the new general manager for the MBTA. ''It's symbolic of the real changes that people are going to see."
T officials said its revenue department last had 500,000 tokens minted by Attleboro's Kilmartin Industries in January 2004. It is unknown exactly how many tokens are in circulation, officials said, though it is in the hundreds of thousands.
Officials have also not decided what to do with leftover tokens once the CharlieTickets take over.
The history of the token goes back to Boston's transit heyday, when the city's first trains issued paper tickets that passengers placed in a ''ticket chopper" that ground the ticket to a pulp to prevent reuse, said Bradley Clarke, president of the Boston Street Railway Association, an educational nonprofit group of transit professionals and enthusiasts.
To save money, the Boston Elevated Railway Co. on Feb. 21, 1919, began issuing what it called metal tickets, Boston's first true transit tokens. Plus, Clarke said, tokens made the counting of fares simple, one coin for one passenger.
The bronze token was introduced in 1923, embossed with a big B. It was used until the mid-1930s, when Boston's tokens disappeared until about 1950, Clarke said.
When the song ''Charlie on the MTA" first introduced Charlie's ''ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston" during the 1940s, it was written to promote a mayoral candidate who wanted to simplify the T's fare structure. The candidate lost, but on Nov. 10, 1951, the T's fare system was simplified, and the current token reintroduced, Clarke said.
Tokens were taken out of circulation again on July 1, 1969, when the T switched to a 25-cent fare and quarters worked in the turnstiles.
They returned in June 1980, as part of a fare increase.
Two years later, the first token vending machine was introduced at Park Street Station on Feb. 23, 1982. They are still in use.